One issue Brooks touches on is the issue of authenticity in “In Dahomey” and how it relates to the mixed audience of the play. While Walker claims that the play served as a space for the “natural” black performer, the play was also created for a racially mixed audience that had different notions of what was “naturally” black. White attendees wished to see an “authentic” portrayal of African Americans, i.e. performers in blackface singing and dancing in ridiculous fashion; this audience was fascinated by the “spectacle” of seeing a production created by a company consisting of only African Americans. But the black audience was watching for a performance that portrayed a more realistic interpretation of the African American condition. “In Dahomey,” however, fails to be authentic in the white and black sense due to its nature as a transitional work.
Because “In Dahomey’ functions as a transitional piece, it cannot be fully “authentic” in either the black or white sense of the word. The play caters to a white audience by building the story around an absurd plot: the hunt of two detectives for a silver casket containing a cat’s eye. But it also caters to the black audience in the ways that it mocks the whiteness of “high society” in many of its musical numbers. The effect that this play has on its target audience is confusing because its target audience is the entirety of American society. Williams blacking up can be viewed as either satire of white playgoers or adoption of white performing traditions. The songs can either be seen as expressing satire of white America’s necessity to be the highest members of society or expressing genuine hopes that blacks will one day become members of that high society. The racist treatment of Me Sing can be interpreted as blacks pointing out their ability to be on equal footing as whites or as genuine racist treatment of the Asian American community. Depending which audience one is a part of, this play can either have great meaning or meaninglessness, which is why all the critics hated the play. It is a genuinely confusing production being that it is a transitional piece catering to an extremely wide audience. One cannot search for true authenticity in this play (whatever that may mean) because it is an experiment in theater that aims not for “true authenticity” but to bring black performers to the forefront of theatrical production, which the play ultimately succeeds in.